Authentic Tacos Al Pastor

The best Tacos Al Pastor have tender, marinated pork stuffed into tortillas and topped with grilled pineapple, onions and cilantro. These tender pork tacos are perfect for your Taco Tuesday!

tacos al pastor lined up next to each other, limes

Making an authentic tacos al pastor recipe at home is easier than you might think! It’s really all about the marinade, which has loads of citrus, pineapple and spices, and slicing the pork very thin so it soaks up the marinade and cooks up nice and tender.

I’ve also included instructions for cooking the pork in your slow cooker or Instant Pot. Just be sure to note that you should cut the meat into chunks instead of thin slices.

For a really authentic meal, serve these tacos in homemade corn tortillas or flour tortillas, then top them with my easy pineapple salsa. To complete your meal, serve with Mexican rice or Slow Cooker Mexican beans on the side.

Table of Contents
  1. What are Tacos Al Pastor?
  2. Ingredients for Tacos Al Pastor
  3. How To Make Stovetop Al Pastor Tacos
  4. FAQs
  5. Variations
  6. Serving Suggestions
  7. Storage and Reheating
  8. Expert Tips
  9. More Mexican Inspired Favorites
  10. Authentic Tacos Al Pastor Recipe

What are Tacos Al Pastor?

Tacos Al Pastor are tacos made with thinly sliced and marinated pork, typically topped with pineapple, onions, and cilantro.

In English, al pastor means “Shepherd Style.” It’s a method of cooking that is believed to have originated from Lebanese immigrants to Mexico who brought their method of roasting shawarma on a vertical spit. Locals then used this technique for roasting marinated pork.

This recipe has been adapted to a more modern method, cooking the pork in a skillet instead. You can also grill the meat if you like. You’ll still get the authentic flavor from marinade with a much simpler cooking style.

Ingredients for Tacos Al Pastor

  • Dried Guajillo chiles and Pasilla chiles These add both heat and flavor to the marinade. Both should be easily found in the Hispanic aisle of your local grocery store, dried and packaged. Otherwise you can find them on Amazon.
  • Onion – 1 white onion, sliced, not chopped.
  • Garlic – 3 cloves
  • Orange juice – fresh squeezed (you want the juice, not the extra sugar).
  • Pineapple juice bottled or from a can of pineapple.
  • Spices – Dried oregano, ground cinnamon, cumin powder, salt, black pepper, ground cloves, Ground annatto (this spice is similar to paprika and can be substituted if necessary).
  • Pork shoulder – boneless, about 3 pounds, and sliced very thin.
  • Pineapple slices – If you used canned pineapple rings, you can use the juice for the marinade.
  • Corn or flour tortillas
  • Toppings: chopped cilantro, finely diced onion and lime juice.

How To Make Stovetop Al Pastor Tacos

  • Make the marinade. The marinade is made with boiled and softened guajillo and pasilla chiles, onion, and garlic cloves. Blend them together in a blender or food processor until smooth with orange juice, pineapple juice, and spices until smooth.
  • Slice the pork roast. The whole pork roast is thinly sliced, then tossed with the sauce. The thin slices of pork ensure that every bite will be packed with flavor. (If cooking in the slow cooker or Instant Pot you’ll cut the meat into chunks).
  • Marinate. Add the pork and marinade into a bowl or resealable bag – give it a toss around and make sure all the pork pieces are covered. Marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. The longer you can marinate, the more tender and flavorful the meat will be.
  • Cook: Start by toasting some pineapple slices in a skillet. These will be a smoky, sweet topping for your tacos. Then fry the pork in some oil for a few minutes per side until it’s all cooked. Take care not to overcook – it doesn’t take long.
collage showing how to make marinade for tacos al pastor
marineted slices of pork cooking in a skillet

FAQs

What is the difference between Al Pastor and Carnitas?

Both use pork, but the difference lies in both the preparation of the pork and the cooking method. Carnitas are made by slow cooking or braising the pork and then browned to finish, while al pastor is marinated and grilled.

What cut of meat is used?

Typically this recipe is made from a boneless pork shoulder. Pork shoulder is an inexpensive cut that is fattier so when cooked it becomes very tender and juicy. You can substitute a pork sirloin, but it’s a leaner cut of pork so it will be dryer and not as tender and moist in the tacos.

Are they spicy?

The meat is not very spicy. Although there are chiles in the marinade, the sweet pineapple juice balances out the spiciness. You can also control the heat of the by adding more chiles or adding some spicy toppings – such as sliced jalapenos or a spicy salsa.

Variations

You can cook the pork in a skillet as directed, or use your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. For either method, you’ll want to cut the pork into 2-inch chunks instead of thin slices.

Slow Cooker

Marinate the chunks of pork for 6-8 hours. Place the marinated pork and marinade in the crockpot. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours, or on HIGH for 4 hours. Serve as it, or transfer the meat to a foil lined sheet pan and broil in the oven for several minutes to crisp up the edges.

Instant Pot

Marinate the chunks of pork for 6-8 hours. Place the marinated pork and marinade into the pressure cooker. Secure the lid and set to manual and high pressure for 30 minutes. When the time is up, perform a natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release the remaining pressure. Serve as is, or transfer the meat to a foil lined sheet pan and broil in the oven for several minutes to crisp up the edges.

Serving Suggestions

For a zesty topping, toss chopped cilantro with onion and lime juice. To serve, just thinly slice the pork, serve in tortillas, and top with the grilled pineapple and cilantro-onion mix. I like to serve lime wedges on the side.

If you want to add other toppings, some options include Grilled Pineapple, Mango Salsa, shredded cabbage and cotija cheese.

tacos al pastor with pineapple and lime

Storage and Reheating

Storage: Leftover cooked pork can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Freezing: Place leftover pork in a freezer bag, removing excess air, and freeze for up to 3 months. Or the thinly sliced, raw pork shoulder can be combined with the marinade and then frozen in a freezer bag – thaw in the fridge overnight and cook according to instructions.

Reheating: For best results, I recommend reheating in a skillet to crisp up the edges again. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge first.

  • For easier slicing, chill the raw pork shoulder in the freezer for 30 minutes, and use a very sharp knife to slice.
  • The longer the marinating time the better. I recommend marinating the pork for at least 6 hours, but overnight is best.
  • When cooking the pork, don’t overcrowd the skillet or the pork will steam vs browning. Use a large skillet and cook in batches.
  • If you want grill marks on your pork and pineapple, you can use a grill pan instead of a skillet.
tacos al pastor with limes, pineapple and cilantro

More Mexican Inspired Favorites

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Authentic Tacos Al Pastor

Tacos Al Pastor are tender marinated pork tacos topped with grilled pineapple. Learn how easy it is to cook this traditional Mexican recipe at home.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 7 hrs 10 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 servings
Calories 386kcal

Ingredients
  

MARINADE

  • 3 dried Guajillo chiles with the membranes and seeds removed
  • 1 dried pasilla chile with the membranes and seeds removed
  • ½ large white onion chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic peeled
  • 1 orange juiced
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ ounces ground annatto (achiote molido)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

TACOS

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder
  • 5-6 pineapple slices canned or fresh, drained from the juice
  • Corn or flour tortillas warmed up
  • Optional topping: chopped cilantro, finely diced onion and lime juice

Instructions
 

MARINADE:

  • Boil 3 cups of water in a medium size pot. Remove from the heat and add the Guajillo and pasilla chiles, onion and garlic and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, or until the chiles become soft.
  • Drain the water, and add the chiles, onion and garlic to a blender along with the orange juice, pineapple juice, salt, annatto, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and cloves. Blend until smooth.

SKILLET:

  • Slice the pork into very thin slices, about 1/4-inch thick.
  • Place the pork and chile mixture into a large bowl or resealable bag and make sure that each piece is well coated. Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours or overnight.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add 4-5 pieces of the marinated meat to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until it’s cooked through. Repeat until all of the pork is cooked. Slice the pork into thin pieces.

SLOW COOKER OR INSTANT POT:

  • Cut the pork shoulder into 2-inch chunks. Place the pork and chile mixture into a large bowl or resealable bag and make sure that each piece is well coated. Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours or overnight.
  • SLOW COOKER: Place the marinated pork and marinade in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours, or on HIGH for 4 hours.
  • INSTANT POT: Place the marinated pork and marinade into the pressure cooker. Secure the lid and set to manual and high pressure for 30 minutes. When the time is up, perform a natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release the remaining pressure.
  • Serve as is, or transfer the meat to a foil lined sheet pan and broil in the oven for several minutes to crisp up the edges.

SERVING:

  • Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pineapple and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side or until it starts to brown. Remove it from the pan, slice it into bite size pieces.
  • Optional, for topping: Chop a handful of cilantro and about ½ cup of onions and combine in a small bowl. Squeeze juice from a lime over the top and stir to combine.
  • Serve the pork in tortillas, topped with the grilled pineapple, cilantro and onions, and serve with lime wedges.

Notes

Leftover cooked pork can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. For best results, I recommend reheating in a skillet to crisp up the edges again.
Pork can be frozen in a freezer bag (excess air removed) for up to 3 months. Or the raw pork shoulder can be combined with the marinade and then frozen in a freezer bag – thaw in the fridge overnight and cook according to instructions.
Slow Cooker
Marinate the chunks of pork for 6-8 hours. Place the marinated pork and marinade in the crockpot. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours, or on HIGH for 4 hours.Serve as is, or transfer the meat to a foil lined sheet pan and broil in the oven for several minutes to crisp up the edges.
Instant Pot
 

Nutrition

Calories: 386kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 31gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 908mgPotassium: 782mgFiber: 6gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 974IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 99mgIron: 3mg
Keyword pork tacos, tacos al pastor

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. I tried making this recipe for the first time. It’s my first Mexican recipe. I didn’t have pork and I was anxious to try it, so I marinated some already cooked chicken that was shredded in the marinade and fried it in oil. We also made corn tortillas for the first time. I was disappointed that I didn’t have cilantro but I used freshly chopped tomatoes from my garden and the rest of the white onion and topped with lime juice. It was a party in my mouth!